Yoga Teachers Are Fractured Too

Creative Commons License photo credit: Alyssa L. Miller

Some days, it can be hard. We yoga teachers are in the business of helping people feel good. Feel good about themselves, their bodies, their practice, their poses, their lives. Most days, it is our sheer pleasure. But you know what? We are human. And as such, every once in awhile, our lives go on the blink.

We teach because we are fractured.


I heard Donna Farhi say these words to a group of yoga teachers exactly ten years ago, days before that 9/11. She was speaking about the role of the teacher, and added that

 practice is not about eradicating our frailties, our dark side, it is about accepting our full spectrum. To be large and courageous enough to embrace those human aspects, and stay in our center as these feelings wash over us.”

In her utter honesty, she shared that in her “crushing sadness” after her brother’s death from cancer. She said she got “stuck in being scared,” and wanted to give up. She wondered how to encompass the despair within the sadness, and go on teaching students the joy and vibrant health of yoga.

Of course, she made it through the dark despair, and has become one of the most inspirational yoga teachers in the world. Farhi en-couraged (prompted our hearts) us to be honest with our students about our moments of intense pain, as it helps them with their own grief to see that we are human.

This author has an honesty alert.

I’m scared right now. I’m one of the economic statistics you read about, that you maybe are, too. The unemployment benefits ran out two months ago. I just got notice the house I’m renting is being sold. I’m feeling shaky ground. But, I’m a yoga teacher. This means a couple of things. My income from teaching these days is enough to say, cover food for myself and my two cats, but the bucks stop about there.

While I take Donna Farhi’s wisdom to heart, and sure, my students can learn something from seeing my human grief, if I don’t shine brightly each time they come to class, who wants to take a class from a yoga teacher who is smudged with shades of despair?

 Creative Commons License photo credit: Ryan Forsythe

I call out to you, fellow yoga teachers and students alike.

When live presents its despair, what tips do you have for “turning that frown upside down” (add this to the benefits of headstand)?

What are some constructive ways to share “crushing sadness” without your yoga class turning into an inflicted therapy session?

Posted by:

- who has written 41 posts on Yoga Modern.

Barbra Brady is the Art Editor at Yoga Modern. She holds an MA in Museum Exhibition Theory & Cultural Studies, which she has exercised as a museum curator of contemporary art, nationally published writer, leader of a venerated nonprofit yoga retreat foundation, and now, yoga with a slant on channeling creative energy. When not practicing or teaching yoga in the tradition of her teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker (as a Certified Level IParaYoga teacher) or as an iRest Yoga Nidra practitioner, Barbra practices the yoga of “curiosity.” The curiosity that fuels her imagination may be through writing, curating, a turn of leaf or phrase, cinema, a century ride on her road bike… She’ll be sharing her curatorial picks and original musings, as she whispers in the ear of the Yoga Modern community: “Hey, look at this!” She lives in Sonoma, California, an Eden which naturally prompts her reflections on nature, food, and yes, wine (in meaningful moderation).

13 Responses

  • yogateacher says:

    I love this. I have the same questions, not yet any answers :(

  • Mimm says:

    Barbra, when I went through my own depression the first six months of this year I worried I would be unable to teach. As the weeks went by and my depression deepened, my students began to teach me. They could see the changes in my character. They asked questions, they stayed after class, they supported me and lifted my heart. One student took me by the hand and pointed me toward the help I needed and even offered to cover expenses should I need her to. All the while, I continued to repeat to myself, like a mantra "All things change. This will change." And it did. I feel for what you're going through.

    • Barbra Brady says:

      Thank you, Mimm. I appreciate your support. I guess I am still "transmitting," as I had a comment from a student new to me this morning that made me know I am teaching what I most want to teach. It was in a large class in a health club, and a woman told me after class that while the room was not hot, she felt I had given them some gentle "fire" via the practice. Yes! An 8 a.m. class on a Monday morning, Yes, I want to ignite some "agni," which is exactly what I need myself now I must admit…anyway, being a ParaYoga teacher (which includes the principles of Ayurveda) every practice has a systemic purpose, and this one came through to someone in her first class with me. Wow. Yes, I will be open to receiving help, thank you.

  • Elena says:

    every time i teach when i'm feeling broken, i teach exactly what i need to do/hear/feel. always clearer afterwards. our struggle is our strength.

    • Barbra Brady says:

      So true, Elena. I've heard teachers of other disciplines express similar sentiments. I so appreciate the dialogues, here. So now I ponder: is it simply a beautiful symbiosis, a yoga teacher's struggles serving as an example of "getting out of a hole?" The travails I am currently facing are human. I happen to have some knowledge (a toolkit) about how to "deal" with these travails. Knowing others may not yet know they, too, have this toolkit (I am thinking very much about the many aspects of hatha yoga and meditation), it surely is a blessing that I may help by example…such a blessing, challenge.

  • dsunshine says:

    This is great Barbra – thanks for sharing! – Daniel

  • Cris says:

    I'm not sure if i will say someting new, or something usefull. Reading this has been beautiful to me, and not just for me (i'm sure of it). When i'm not ok i start the class and i forget about everything, just because while i'm in that near meditation yoga state everything becomes anicca, the impermanence, and that gives me comfort. So, what Mimm said before works for me too "everything will change, even this". Thaks for other posts that reminded me the power of teaching what you need the most, and even most important than that, the conscious of doing it. Lots of energy and good vibes for those difficult moments…<3

  • gokkast says:

    Awesome blog, it’s just like a game for me! It’s so infomative and usefull, thanks a lot! If you post more of this great stuff, I’ll visit your blog again!